Hand Crank Starting the Model T Ford Car on Magneto by Ron Patterson

Once again we are privileged to have another fine article written by Ron Patterson.



When the Model T Car was originally developed Henry Ford insisted that it have a self-contained power source for the Ignition System so owners would not have to rely upon battery power. All inexpensive cars at that time used dry cell batteries to power Trembler coils for ignition. A dead battery would disable the vehicle until it had been replaced. Many people carried extra batteries, but commonly forgot to keep a supply of charged batteries on hand. These batteries were not rechargeable and were a common nuisance to maintain.

While Ford’s idea sounds anachronistic today, it was a major selling point of the new Model T Ford in 1908.Henry Ford’s idea was implemented by Joseph Galamb and Edward Huff in the form of the internal flywheel driven alternating current generator (the Model T Magneto); sixteen permanent magnets mounted on the flywheel rotating (rotor) near a ring of sixteen fixed field windings (stator) to produce ignition current.

In this magneto system spark timing was controlled by a combination of Magneto current pulses that occurred every 22.5 degrees of flywheel rotation and the Timer which was connected to the driver manipulated spark control lever (advance and retard) on the steering column.

For those interested in more complete details of the entire system read our article entitled “The Model T Ford Ignition and Spark Timing” and may be found at the following link:

The Model T Ford Ignition Spark and Timing

Figure 1 Ford Recommended Starting on Magneto Procedure

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Recharging the Model T Ford Magneto

A Model T Ford owner (left) stops at a junk yard during the great depression to buy a few extra coils for his Model T. The junk yard owner is evaluating the coils.

The heart and soul of the Model T Ford is its ignition system. Very advanced for its day, it is widely misunderstood by many in the car hobby. Many do not comprehend how utterly reliable and trouble free the Model T ignition system is when it is properly serviced. Here we will examine the flywheel magnets and care for them properly during an engine service event.

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